The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
September 10, 2007

My Disney Adventure, Part 2: Eating & Sleeping

As I mentioned in Part 1 of My Disney Adventure, I rushed to reserve transportation and accommodations at the last minute without planning ahead. This is not recommended.

LODGING:

If I had done some research, I might have found a more eco-friendly place to stay. Instead, I went for availability and price, booking a room at the Alamo Inn & Suites on Katella Ave simply because it had the best rates through Hotels.com.

On the plus side, the hotel is located just across the street from Disneyland, so no driving is required to get to the park. As far as I can tell, that is the only environmental plus. And since there are so many other hotels also within walking distance, there’s sure to be another with a better eco-philosophy.

Now, here are a few negatives:

  • Coffee service in the lobby with Styrofoam cups and plastic stirrers.
  • Plastic drinking cups in the room.
  • Plastic-lined waste cans in the rooms and no means of recycling.
  • Plastic packets of shampoo and lotion in the room. And even though we never opened and used the packets, each day the staff brought us more!
  • Old air conditioning units in the walls that had to be run continuously in order to keep the room from becoming an oven.

We tried to gather recyclables (newspapers, tourist info, glass bottles) in a paper bag and find a place to recycle them, but while we were out, the cleaning staff threw out our bag with the rest of the garbage, even though we hadn’t put it in the waste can. When I asked the hotel desk clerk if there was a way to recycle or if items from guest waste cans are separated out for recycling, she helpfully answered, “No. We just dump it all out.”

After that incident, I resolved to save any recyclables in my backpack and bring them back to Oakland. As it turns out, I could have taken them into Disneyland with me. Disneyland is one of the few businesses in Anaheim with a robust recycling program. In fact, there are bins for paper and bottles throughout the park. I’ll talk more about Disneyland’s environmental pluses and minuses in my next post.

So how could I have found a more pro-environment hotel beforehand? Fortunately, there’s a great site, Environmentally Friendly Hotels.Com, which is an ongoing database of hotels throughout the world rated using a checklist of 33 environmental criteria. Users can browse the site to look for hotel ratings, and they can also post reviews and add listings to the database.

Looking at the Anaheim page, it turns out that the hotels in Disneyland itself are the most eco-friendly. Unfortunately, they are also out of my price range. But I could have used the checklist itself as a guide for what to ask before making a reservation. There are many more hotels in Anaheim than are listed on this site. The site also offers a form that you can print out and take with you to evaluate a property during your stay.

DINING:

Eating healthfully and plastic-free was another challenge. Anaheim, Orange County for that matter, consists of street after street of fast food and chain restaurants. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many McDonald’s restaurants in one place. There is a Farmer’s Market in Anaheim, but it only operates on Thursday mornings. We arrived on Friday.

So our first night, Michael and I found a Vons Supermarket (part of the Safeway chain) and purchased produce and bread, which we stored in the small refrigerator in our room. Being a little disoriented from traveling, I left my backpack, which always contains a supply of reused plastic bags, in the hotel, so we were going to need a paper bag. Little did we know, Vons in Anaheim does not have paper grocery bags anymore! Plastic is the only option offered at the checkout counter. Michael was preparing to carry everything out in his shirt, when we spied some thin paper bags near the bakery case, which were meant for bread and bagels. They did the job for us. Next time I’ll remember to bring my own bags, I swear!

One ecologically-friendly option is Native Foods, a vegan restaurant, but you have to drive thirteen miles to Costa Mesa to eat there. It was on our way to the beach on Saturday, so we stopped in. Native Foods is located in a shopping complex called The Camp, which is a mix of outdoor stores, natural product retailers, and unique restaurants set among native plant gardens and outdoor gathering places. It’s a tiny bit of “green” in Orange County. A very tiny bit.

Up the street from our hotel was a little Mexican restaurant called Tacos Mi Pueblo, where I had some of the best vegetarian burritos of my life. I’m sure the secret ingredient must have been lard. But I felt better eating there than at the chains because the food was authentic and the restaurant small and locally-owned. I did end up with a couple of straws when I wasn’t paying attention.

I’ve found that my main challenge for remaining plastic-free while eating in restaurants is remembering to specify, “no straw.” In take-out places where everything is served in disposable containers, it’s not hard to remember to specify, “no lid, no straw,” and if I’m getting a cold coffee drink, “paper cup.” But in a sit-down restaurant where everything on the table is made from durable materials, those ubiquitous straws leap out of nowhere and catch me with my guard down. If the straw is still wrapped in paper, I can send it back. But if the server has kindly unwrapped it for me, I’m screwed.

While I’m pretty happy drinking without a straw, I realize it’s sometimes easier to use one. Especially for cold drinks with ice. For those who really want to use a straw, there are plastic-free options:

  • Stainless steel drinking straws. If you can carry your own reusable water bottle and cutlery, why not carry your own reusable straws?
  • Biodegradable Straws. These are made from cornstarch. If it were me, I’d opt for a reusable product over a disposable one, but biodegradable is better than plastic.
  • Paper Straws, the old-fashioned kind. If you want a bit of nostalgia, you can still find paper straws in antique shops for a pretty price.
  • Paper drinking straws, the new kind. Aardvark, the company that invented paper drinking straws, is still making them. Now, however, the straws are coated with something that makes them waterproof. I don’t know what the coating is, so I’m not recommending them until I find out. I did send an e-mail to the company and will let you know when I hear back.

I guess the main idea I want to stress when it comes to reducing plastic waste while staying in hotels or dining out is to plan ahead. Whether traveling or at home, I find I run into the biggest challenges when I haven’t planned what I’ll eat and where and haven’t left the house prepared. Being tired and hungry makes me much less mindful about what I’m consuming. Procrastination seems to be plastic’s best friend.
 

11 comments
KarenScribner
KarenScribner

You can't believe how excited I am to see that Disneyland recycles! Can you post that right at the top of your blog and website along with other places that do that?

Do not go to Bali, Indonesia if you want to avoid plastic. We have our own house so I can be more careful. However the only thing I can burn that is not plastic is used toilet paper and boxes that the light bulbs come in! There is a lot of cellophane for things that don't need to be really airtight in this un-airconditioned and very humid climate. 

KarenScribner
KarenScribner

You can't believe how excited I am to see that Disneyland recycles! Can you post that right at the top of your blog and website along with other places that do that?

Do not go to Bali, Indonesia if you want to avoid plastic. We have our own house so I can be more careful. However the only thing I can burn that is not plastic is used toilet paper and boxes that the light bulbs come in! There is a lot of cellophane for things that don't need to be really airtight in this un-airconditioned and very humid climate.

KarenScribner
KarenScribner

@Sunny  They throw the used soap away. However, I read about a guy several years ago that collects used soap from hotels and reprocesses somehow. You can get a soap  holder (check Beth's site for non-plastic, mine is plastic, 20 years old and still good so I use it) to bring your own soap or keep the one from your first stay. There is a charity in every city that will take the soap if you accidently bring it home to give to people who need it.

Tyson Cartier
Tyson Cartier

Thanks for the info. If you've never been to a <a href="http://www.qualitysuitesanaheim.com">hotel in anaheim</a>, it's something you need to do. While in anaheim, you could go to disneyland. It's a great place to go for the family to enjoy, but there are long lines sometimes.

Tyson Cartier
Tyson Cartier

Thanks for the info. If you've never been to a <a href="http://www.qualitysuitesanaheim.com">hotel in anaheim</a>, it's something you need to do. While in anaheim, you could go to disneyland. It's a great place to go for the family to enjoy, but there are long lines sometimes.

Sarah
Sarah

This is an old post, and hopefully you have covered traveling more, but one thing to do if you are staying at a hotel for an extended period of time is to leave up the 'do not disturb' sign. Then no one messes with your towels, toiletries, and your carefully collected recyclables.

terrible person
terrible person

Can you imagine if they charged for each toiletry item, perhaps as outrageously as for the stuff on the mini-bar? But then, the toiletries industry is having a great year, because everyone has to throw away all their stuff (mostly packaged in plastic) before boarding the plane, and buy more on arrival! Many think the liquids rules were put in place as a favor to political donors at companies like Proctor & Gamble ...

terrible person
terrible person

I'm reminded of the part in the movie "Mystery Train" in which the young Japanese tourist tells his girlfriend that in America, the towels are included in the hotel room price, so you are expected to take them.

terrible person
terrible person

Isn't naming an inn after the Alamo a little insulting to people of Mexican descent? Well, I guess the Mexicans won there, but it's a symbol of resistance to them. Or maybe the inn isn't named for the mission in San Antonio, but for the literal meaning of "alamo", "poplar tree". Were there any poplar trees around? I didn't notice. Trees in general don't seem to poplar in Anaheim, just palm.

Pat
Pat

I don't see hotels throwing away unopened soaps. That cost money and they watch their money. It is nice to see they don't wash the towels every time now. Beth, I have a question on your half marathon. What did you do at water stops? What type of cup did they use? And the plastic ties they use to hold on your timing chip, did you use it? I have a velcro tie that I can put on my shoe that will hold my chip. No more plastic ties for me.I can live without straws and lids, what I need to do is bring my own cup. Thanks for visiting my blog

Sunny
Sunny

Good post. I traveled a lot for work this spring and have to do it again this fall. I will be spending 12 nights in October alone in a motel. I did bring home the soaps and shampoos for some odd reason this spring. Guess I had it in mind to share with the homeless or something. I do think however that it's probably a better idea not to take them at all. My concern is, I only stay one night in each motel. Do they leave the soaps for the next person if I don't use them or do they throw them away or does the cleaning staff take them home? Guess I'll have to start asking. I would rather take them then leave them to be thrown away. Anybody have any thoughts or ideas? Thanks again for letting us peek into your life Beth!

KarenScribner
KarenScribner

@Sunny  They throw the used soap away. However, I read about a guy several years ago that collects used soap from hotels and reprocesses somehow. You can get a soap  holder (check Beth's site for non-plastic, mine is plastic, 20 years old and still good so I use it) to bring your own soap or keep the one from your first stay. There is a charity in every city that will take the soap if you accidently bring it home to give to people who need it.